Hardcover, 307 pages
Expected publication: September 1st 2015 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
I simultaneously have a lot to say about this book and nothing at all to say about this book. If I were it break it up in technical terms and talk about the plot, the prose, the imagery, I feel like I would be robbing of it of something. Off something? English fail.
But how am I supposed to convince you, my dear Readers, about how much fun this book is without getting technical. Because it is. A lot of fun. I won’t get melodramatic and call it the most amazing book there is in the history of books but I will say that it is 90% satisfying, in a giddy sort of way, like, fangirls will be fangirling intensely, that kind of satisfying.
The book is about Madeline Whittier who is allergic to the world (as the back copy says). She has never left her house since she got diagnosed with the disease (it has an official name and everything) and everyone who comes in contact with her has to undergo a rigorous decontaminating process beforehand. Maddy has made peace with her loneliness and her life. She has Carla, her nurse, and her mother who has sacrificed everything for Maddy’s happiness. So she is fine, even happy, until the day a new family moves into the house opposite hers and she sees Olly.
It is not that Maddy throws caution to the wind and forgets about her illness because she doesn’t. She remains careful about setting boundaries but Olly, the boy across the street, is almost impossible to resist. Not that Maddy is trying too hard to resist or anything. The novel is told in prose, illustrations, lists, IM messages, text messages, and emails. It is told from Maddy’s perspective so the readers are able to intimately experience how stifled Maddy feels inside her house. Her burgeoning feelings for Olly are accompanied by frustrated grief at the knowledge that anything more between them is impossible.
The novel is short and extremely fast-paced. The use of different media and varieties of text to construct the narrative will appeal to contemporary teens as they too are constructed by these very same texts. I think what makes the novel succeed is the Maddy’s freshness and the authenticity of her voice. Yoon is able to grasp the heart of the character and wrangle from them sincerest emotions they are capable of. The prose is spare and careful not to veer off into melodrama and sentiment. In other words, no cheese.
I did wish that the novel went into greater detail and explored at more depth the sifting relationship between Maddy and her mother. Because while the romance is one of the attractions of the book, I felt that the mother-daughter relationship had just as much potential if not more.
Still, Olly and Maddy are probably one of my favourite couples out there now. And this is coming from someone who is not at all a romance-lover so you know I mean business. I like them as much as I like Aristotle and Dante (hello Benjamin Alire Saenz).
Should you read this? Well, that depends. Do you like books that make you giggle and feel warm and fuzzy all over? If yes, then yes. If not then no.
Also, hats off to the diversity in this book.